With three homers in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis going into Tuesday night's Game 5 at Busch Stadium, the Mets center fielder has seven homers in 11 LCS games, leaving him two away from co-leaders George Brett and Bernie Williams. Brett needed 27 games and Williams 41 to launch nine homers, suggesting Beltran is on a record pace.
In 19 postseason games -- 12 with the Astros in 2004 -- Beltran is batting .386 with 11 homers and 19 RBIs.
The legend of Clemente -- who died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972 -- rings loud and proud throughout Latin America, with profound resonance in his native country. Beltran soaked it all in as a youngster, dreaming those Clemente dreams.
"Of course, what Roberto did in the game of baseball means a lot -- especially to us in Puerto Rico," Beltran said. "As a kid, you always grow up aware of Roberto Clemente, what he did.
"You think of kind of being like him, of course. But when you get to this point in your career, you've got to be your own person; I've got to be me.
"I play the outfield, too, but Roberto Clemente was a different player, a multi-talented player. It's a great feeling that people compare me or say they think I'm doing things that Roberto Clemente did. It's a great compliment. But I just have to go out and play the game."
Omar Minaya, executive vice president and general manager of the Mets, brought Beltran to New York as a free agent in 2005 for moments such as these. His 41 homers and 116 RBIs this season were career highs, and there are those who believe he was the league's most valuable player.
"When you come from the islands, you're going to be attached to some great player," Minaya said. "It's like being with the Yankees. Bernie Williams will always be attached to DiMaggio, those great players. That legacy is a motivator. And that's how it is with players from Puerto Rico, with Roberto Clemente."
El Duque impresses Peterson: Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson was enthused about Orlando Hernandez's bullpen session before Sunday night's game at Busch Stadium. It was the first time El Duque had let it rip since injuring his right calf running in preparation for a scheduled start in Game 1 of the NLDS that he was forced to miss.
If the Mets reach the World Series, Hernandez will be eligible to resume his spot in the rotation.
"He threw a 72-pitch bullpen, and it was very good," Peterson said. "He felt great, threw the ball free and easy. No discomfort whatsoever. He's been throwing all along. It could be a blessing; his arm gets a little break. When he's fresh, he's special."
Peterson said he could envision Hernandez back in his element, working a World Series game. The man from Cuba is 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five World Series games, four as a starter. Overall, he's 9-3 in postseason play with a 2.55 ERA in 17 games and 106 innings.
"The most important thing is he can see himself come back," Peterson said. "He wants so desperately to be part of this. He was a broken guy when his calf failed on him for Game 1 [against the Dodgers]. This is what he lives for; he's a big-game pitcher. I think he gets bored during the season. He loves the big stage."
Omens, Amazin' style: The Mets' record in five Game 5s in NLCS play is 4-1. They won Game 5 in 1973, 1986, 1999 and 2000 and lost in 1988.
Tom Glavine twice has started a Game 5 in NLCS play. He lost both starts -- one in 1991 and the other 10 years later. But he allowed two earned runs in 13 innings, a 1.39 ERA.
Omens II: On three occasions in postseason history, including
Game 4 of the NLCS on Sunday night, teams have combined to hit seven home
runs in one game.
The teams that hit four or more in the first two instances -- the A's in Game 3 of the 1989 World Series and the Marlins in Game 1 of the 2003 of the NLCS -- not only prevailed in the games but also in the series. The Mets hit four and the Cardinals hit three Sunday night.
Omens III: Jeff Suppan's home run in Saturday night's Game 3 was the fifth by a pitcher in an NLCS. Don Gullett (1975 Reds), Steve
Carlton (1978 Phillies), Rick Sutcliffe (1984 Cubs) and Kerry Wood (2003 Cubs) were responsible for the first four. Only the '75 Reds prevailed in the series.
This date in Mets history: Oct. 17 -- Rusty Staub hit a thee-run homer against Ken Holtzman in the first inning, and the Mets knocked out Holtzman before he achieved a second out en route to a 6-1 victory against the A's in Game 4 of the 1973 World Series.
Staub had four hits and five RBIs. Game 1 loser Jon Matlack, who had shut out the Reds on two singles in the NLCS, allowed three singles and an unearned run in eight innings in this start.
After a bases-loaded walk to Todd Pratt tied the score, Robin
Ventura hit a grand slam "single" in the 15th inning to provide the
decisive run in the Mets' 4-3 victory against the Braves in Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS at Shea Stadium.
Ventura hit a pitch from Kevin McGlinchy over the wall in right-center field, but Pratt waited for Ventura between first and second, lifted him off the ground and passed him on the basepaths. As a consequence, the hit was ruled a single.